Structuring the offer for a college graduate these days has become complex. More of them they have choices of employers and many offers and can be very demanding. These Gen-Xers are far more likely to expect flexibility, special deals, higher starting pay and more choice over the actual job assignment that any other group of candidates. This pressures the tradition-bound college recruiting industry to change and adapt. I expect that many of you will bristle at the arrogance of the demands these graduates make. Many of you will flash back to your first job offer, which was probably very simple, very structured and offered to you as a take it or leave it proposition, and shake your heads. But, if you cannot accept the huge differences between then and now and put together creative offers, it will be tough to get these grads to say yes. Here are a few tips on how to put together successful offers. I imagine the biggest hurdle you will have to cross is convincing upper management and the compensation department that these offers are necessary to make the hires. This is why some benchmarking around your local area can be very helpful in making your case. Gather data, ask your fellow recruiters in other companies what they are observing and I think you can make a good case for flexibility and change.
- You should develop a process that allows you to hire students with minimal bureaucracy. Get a system in place that forces managers to decide quickly. A survey conducted by the Wall Street Journal last summer indicated that both male and female students, across the board, received an average of almost 2.5 offers each! Those who have degrees in technical areas often have as many as 7 offers to choose from! Speed is the most important factor in getting a student to say yes.
- Select groups of students from campuses you have relationships with to come for a final interview at your organization’s site. At the site, host a fun, interactive and meaningful day or two of events and interviews. Let the students see what you are really like. Let them talk to managers and recent graduates. In fact, let your most recent college hires be the salespeople for you! Then at the end of the day or two, make offers on the spot.
- Work with your benefits and compensation departments to develop a flexible structure of benefits you or the students can choose from to create an exciting package. Give them a choice of special benefits such as more time off, telecommuting, membership in a fitness club, an opportunity for trips abroad or whatever else can be creatively thought up and put into a menu of choices. Many grads have accepted offers for less salary but more benefits. If these have been carefully costed out, you can put together a package that is not only tailored for each student, but which all cost about the same! Add other perks such as a laptop computer or an expensive bicycle or similar item instead of a cash sign-on bonus.
- Get to know each graduate well enough to understand his or her motivators. What is going to be a positive to them and what is just neutral? If leaving home is a problem, offer a way for them to get back frequently on business trips or offer them some extra compensation so they can get home. If leaving a girl or boy friend is an issue, try to put together a dual package. The key is knowing the student and developing a relationship that will make the graduate feel close to you and give you insight into their motivations and desires.
- Leverage off professors and other employees to continue selling your organization after the offer is extended. A wavering candidate can make a decision based on the input or opinion of one person he or she respects. Don’t let up the pressure after you have made the offer.
- Incentivize speed in decision making. Offer them a special bonus or an slight increase in annual pay (1%?) if they decide on the spot or within 24 hours. This can be a powerful tool when carefully used with the right candidate.
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But whatever you decide to do, if you are serious about hiring college students, and if you really want the best students, the minority candidates, the technical graduates and the other scarce students, you must have an aggressive, marketing-oriented college relation’s strategy and offer process. The one-size-fits-all approach of the past will not work today. We are in a time when marketing is king and we all have to practice salesmanship.